Social Security was enacted into law in 1935 in the middle of the Great Depression. It started as a retirement program, and in the beginning you were given a lump sum payment. At the time most people had little, if any, faith in banks or the stock market.
In 1939, Social Security was amended to include payments to spouses and minor children. In the 1950s, changes were made to grant cost of living adjustments, which required special legislation from Congress. Changes were also made to provide for disability benefits.
In 1961, the age of retirement was lowered to 62 for men; women had been given this option in 1956. In 1972, Social Security was amended to provide for automatic cost of living adjustments. By the 1980s, the program faced serious financing problems.
In 1983, numerous changes were made, including taxing benefits. Federal employees were added and the retirement age was increased starting in 2000. Increased reserves were also added to the Social Security Trust Fund. The 2000 report stated that Social Security could only pay full benefits through 2037.
Social Security needs repair. Because of advances made in medicine, the average life expectancy has increased to 76.9 years. As the baby boomers reach retirement age, the crisis will explode. By 2018, the government will pay out more than it takes in. For those of us still working, the pressure to pay the retirees will be challenging.
Social Security has failed. Even if it were solvent, it has still failed us. Let’s suppose that a man and a woman started working at age 21, retired at 62 and both passed away at age 76. This would have given them 14 years to draw benefits. For 41 years they paid into the system and were rewarded with 14 years. What if for that same period half of the money went into their personal accounts? In these accounts they could choose their investments and could not access the money until retirement. When they died, money left in the account could be passed on to their children or next of kin. The fruits of their labor could pass from one generation to another to build wealth. It’s not perfect but it’s better then the current system.
At this time 12.4 percent of wages up to $87,900 are taxed and the employer pays an additional 6.2 percent. If 5 percent were placed in an account of your choice, it would at least allow you to pass on wealth. You could choose from a pass book savings with compounded interest to stocks and bonds. The choice would be up to you, not the government.
This system would benefit the families of people who pass away early in life. How many people die at age 50 or 60 before retirement age? The money they paid stays with the fund; it is not passed on. If they have children they receive benefits until age 21, and a spouse receives some assistance.
Social Security should be reformed now to allow all workers under age 30 the ability to privatize 5 percent of their accounts.